As businesses look to right the ship and prepare for recovery following the Year of COVID, three local business leaders are offering their own advice via new book releases.
President and CEO, PurposeWorX, LLC
Conquering the Emotional Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurship
The inspiration for Leesburg resident Kindra Dionne’s first book? People.
Dionne harkens back to her work in the Loudoun County Workforce Resource Center, where she was struck by the breadth of experience and skills of those looking for jobs. Yet, they struggled to find work, often because of an inaccurate perception of the Workforce Resource Center. She would later go on to work for the Town of Leesburg, where she worked closely with local businesses. Through her work in Leesburg, she got to hear firsthand the stories, successes and struggles of local business owners and leaders.
Dionne left the town government to start her own consulting firm, PurposeWorX, at the end of 2017. When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived stateside in March, she began reaching out to clients and business leaders who she had worked with to help them navigate the challenging times. In the stories and worries they shared, she heard a common thread of emotions, some of the same emotions she heard from employers, employees or prospective job seekers. It was those emotions she used to outline each chapter of her book.
The ultimate question posed by her book is how to channel those emotions into something productive. It was her own experience last spring—when the parallels of her life than versus 20 years prior were somewhat overwhelming— that propelled Dionne to channel her emotions into her book.
“Twenty years earlier in March my mother died because of respiratory complications associated with the flu and I was 17 years old in my senior year of high school. This past year, my daughter was 17 years old and in March things were shutting down because of respiratory complications due to COVID,” she said. “The parallel to these things put me in a deep emotional place, and it was hard as hell to pull myself out. I literally had to figure out what to do with those stupid emotions I was feeling. I had to do something productive with them.”
She put pen to paper, and churned out her book in two months.
The book takes readers through 12 emotions, from confidence to procrastination and everything in between.
“I can tell you about your emotions, also about how to use them to benefit you. You can’t get rid of nervousness, procrastination or guilt. But if it’s going to be there, it might as well be useful,” she said.
Dionne is looking to invest any proceeds from the book back into her PurposeWorX business, to be able to hire interns to give them behind-the-scenes access of working with leaders from different industries.
“Conquering the Emotional Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurship” may be purchased atkindradionne.com.
Co-Founder, Flywheel Associates
Building the Business of You
Lansdowne resident Connie Steele’s upcoming debut book integrates her own experience, with 20 years as a marketing and strategy executive under her belt. Steele’s career, like many young professionals and millennials, has seen its share of twists and turns. It’s part of an overall global trend of eschewing a career spent in one workplace, or even industry, and instead dabbling in different jobs to create a wealth of experience and skills.
Steele has a better term for it: “A career mash-up.”
“You have a whole different generation of people who don’t want to say, ‘I only want to do one thing.’ How do I find a way to mash it up? You can be bringing to bear all these different skills and experiences you’ve had with companies in the role that you’re in. When you have the diversity of thinking because of the experiences you have it creates a really interesting momentum and you’ll be able to problem solve very differently,” Steele said.
As the desires of employees have changed, so has what an employer is looking for, she said. Now, there is a desire for a “hybrid worker,” someone who can bring different sets of skills and experience to bear. Soft skills, like communication and emotional intelligence, are “absolutely critical,” she said.
“People are not defined by one career title,” she said. “People are parallel pathing. Side hustles are the norm. You need to be your own CEO, which is why it’s about building the business of you. Once you understand you’re a business, how do you create your own career mash-up? You have to do strategic planning.”
Steele delves into this strategic planning process in her book, with a five-component system: spotting the trends in the business world; creating your own compass or plan; preparing for change; networking; and building skills.
Fluidity is a major tenet of the book, in a nod both to the ever-changing trends and practices of the business world, many of which were accelerated by the pandemic, and the need for an individual to be fluid in the way they think and work.
She refers to her book as more of a thesis, with the ideas building over her head over the last several years.
“Building the Business of You” is expected to be released Feb. 11. It will be available for purchase on Amazon.
Reinventing Your Business Workbook
Eric Byrd has worked extensively with business owners over the years in his role as a coach. When COVID-19 hit, he saw the desperation many were facing with the unknowns, perhaps the chief of which being how long the economic impacts of the pandemic would drag on.
“As I was watching all these small businesses specifically struggle through the pandemic several things started to become clear to me fairly early on. Normal disaster planning wasn’t working, because this thing was dragging and dragging and dragging. Normal disaster plans aren’t meant to last a year or more. That was my first indication we might have a bigger problem to look at,” he said.
In his fourth book, Byrd explores how business owners can plan for the very short term, with conditions changing on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. He introduces aa different set of tools than those to which business owners may be accustomed.
“What I was seeing is things were changing sometimes every week, and creating a situation where no one can actually plan anything. Therefore, I was watching people get paralyzed. Either people locked up or didn’t know what to do, so they were not doing anything new or different, or they were trying to do business the way they were doing it in 2019 which wasn’t going to work in most cases, or they were trying to do anything and everything, any idea that came into their head. Trying to filter all this information coming in from everywhere and trying to do all of it, that also was impossible. So I started to think about what do we really need to be looking at? How do we get through the next 30 days, and then the 30 days after that, and the 30 days after that, for however long this is going to last,” he said.
The 70-page book includes strategies on how to plan for your business in shorter time increments. About half of the book includes worksheets that business owners can use to fill out and strategize, he said.
“What I came up with is a way to focus on the short-term important information that would enable you to make decisions for the next 30 days, and don’t worry about anything beyond that right now. Right now, you’re just trying to survive, 30 days at a time, sometimes a week at a time, especially if you’re a restaurant,” he said.
“I pulled from some very standard, lean start-up customer discovery-based standard business tools we use all the time for planning,” Byrd said. “I realized that was kind of the mindset everybody needed to have right now. Everybody needed to think like a start-up at least at the beginning. Start-ups are living hand to mouth, just trying to make it to the next month. Everybody needs to think that way right now.”
The structure introduced by Byrd is PACE—Pause, Assessment, Create a Plan (Very Short-Term), and Execute the Short-Term Plan, with daily flexibility. It’s a process he refers to as “agile project management.”
“It’s a very practical tool for people to use to figure out what to do when they don’t know what to do—how to gather information really quickly, do some basic assessment without going too ridiculously deep or complicated, create a quick action plan and maintain flexibility 30 days a time,” Byrd said of the book.
Work will soon turn to a follow-up of the book, which will focus on a recovery edition with additional tools, exercises and activities. He hopes to have that book published by mid-year at the latest.
The e-book is available on Amazon, and may also be accessed atreinventingyourbusiness.net, which also includes source materials that business owners can utilize. Byrd said he expects a print version of his book to be available shortly.